State v. Betterman

State v. Betterman, 2015 MT 39 (Feb. 10, 2015) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether Betterman was denied due process by virtue of the delay between conviction and sentencing.

Short Answer: No, overruling State v. Mooney.


Facts: Betterman was sentenced for family member assault in March 2012, and remanded to the Butte-Silver Bow detention center for arraignment on bail jumping charges. In December 2012, the district court scheduled sentencing for January 17, 2013. On that day, Betterman moved to dismiss, alleging a speedy-trial violation based on the delay in his sentencing. No hearing was held, and the district court issued an order denying the motion on April 29, 2013.

On May 6, Betterman filed an affidavit setting forth several facts, including that he had spent at least 442 days in jail for partner of family member assault and would be eligible for conditional release if he was an inmate with DOC, that he was suffering from the delay, and was not receiving medical attention for physical ailments.

Procedural Posture & Holding: Betterman was sentenced on June 27, 2013, for the offense of bail jumping to seven years in Montana State Prison, with four years suspended, to run consecutively with his five-year sentence for PFMA. Betterman appeals the denial of his motion to dismiss, and the Supreme Court affirms.

Reasoning: Betterman argues he has a speedy trial right deriving from the U.S. and Montana constitutions that gives him the right to be sentenced in a timely fashion, a proposition supported by this Court’s decision in Mooney without analysis or explanation. Upon reexamination, the Court holds that speedy trial rights do not apply after conviction.

Analyzing Betterman’s claim under the due process clause, the Court finds that any prejudice to Betterman from delayed senencing was not substantial and demonstrable. It further finds that the delay was not purposeful or oppressive, although unacceptable.

Although multiple statutes require sentencing to take place without delay, Betterman did not raise a statutory claim, and the Court therefore makes no determination as to whether the delayed sentencing violated a Montana statute.